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Carroll County Chinese program begins its third year

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Carroll County Chinese Program Begins Third Year Walking down the halls of Cartmell Elementary School or Kathryn Winn Primary School, one might hear two students greet each other with “nihao,” which means “hello” in Chinese.

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The Chinese words for hello (nihao), goodbye (zaijian), and teacher (laoshi) are a few of the words that students learn from their new teacher, Han Yuenan, known to her students as Miss Ulza, her nickname in China.

“The teachers are helpful, and the kids are very talented at studying Chinese,” Han said about her experiences so far in Carroll County.  “Some of them, they can speak Chinese well. Their pronunciation is very good.”

Han, a native of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province in south-central China, is the third teacher to work in the Carroll County School District as part of the year-long Chinese Guest Teacher Program.  The College Board and Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquartered in China help make the program possible by selecting and training teachers, matching them with school districts that want to offer Chinese language and culture to its students, and paying a portion of each teacher’s salary.

“With the growing role of China in the world economy, it is important that our children be more aware of Chinese language and culture,” Superintendent Lisa James said. “Mandarin Chinese will be more of a global language in business, industry, and all facets of life. We need to educate our children for their future, not ours.”

Han meets with students at Kathryn Winn Primary once a week and with Cartmell students on a rotating basis once or twice a month. In addition to greetings, the students will learn Chinese words for numbers, parts of the body, areas of the classroom and home, and times and dates.   As part of Chinese culture, they will learn about Chinese food, drinks, and notable locations. Han said she would teach them some basic movements of the martial art Kung Fu, as well as Chinese dance and how to make hand-crafted Chinese necklaces.

An elementary school English teacher in China for the past five years, Han came to the United States in July and spent the first ten days in Los Angeles at the Guest Teacher Summer Institute at UCLA.  At the institute, Han learned about the structure of K-12 education in the U.S., communication strategies, course design, and classroom management.

In her first lesson in Chasity Taylor’s fifth grade classroom, Han used a castanet to make rhythmic clicks to help students learn the numbers one, two, and three. 

She quickly moved from table to table encouraging students to clap along.  She also taught students to say hello to one person by saying nihao, but to use nimenhao to address more than one person.

In small groups, the students practiced saying nihao and zaijian to each student, using a chant, which repeats each person’s first name followed by the Chinese word for “hello.” Clapping to keep the rhythm, the students then repeated the chant to say “goodbye.”

Han said she loves the fresh air, blue sky, and many smiles she sees each day in Carroll County.  Transportation, however, has been the most difficult challenge to get adjusted to.

“In China, we live in [an] apartment, and downstairs we can go to [the] supermarket; [it’s] like  this everywhere because [all shops are] very near, but here we live in one place, and  the shopping place is another place far different,” said Han who walks or gets rides to places she needs to go.  Han said she looks forward to learning more about the English language and American culture through her experience in Carroll County.

About 110 schools throughout the United States participate in the Chinese Guest Teacher Program, and the Carroll County School District is one of only nine in Kentucky to do so, according to a press release on the College Board website (http://professionals.collegeboard.com/k-12/awards/chinese/guest).

Han said that it is very important for Chinese children to learn English and that all children beginning in second grade have at least three class periods of English each week.

“There are more people in China who speak English than in the United States, England, and Canada combined,” said Bill Hogan, assistant superintendent of the Carroll County School District, referring to the estimated 300 million people in China who are learning to speak English. “It’s important for our students to learn about other cultures around the world because we live in a global society and are all inter-related and connected.”

Jeff Fremin is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.